What if, when Jesus said, “They neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels in Heaven,” He was not denouncing any possibility of an enduring union between a man and a woman, but declaring that what the Saducees (and doubtless the Pharisees also) called ‘marriage’ had nothing to do with real marriage, with the union He had created?
I write this tentatively, alerting any readers to the fact that while there is something here, with regards to this topic of which I am certain (else I would not be writing this) there is much more which I do not know, and it is not even very clear to me how to differentiate between what I know and what I suggest only in order to provide a frame in which to suggest what I know to others.
God will not bind together in a perpetual unity those who are “married” for political reasons, or because a man thinks a woman beautiful and prevails upon his father to convince her father to give her to him, or for any number of reasons which are not appropriate, even, perhaps, if the “marriage” is mutually and uncoercedly chosen by both members. Perhaps a sexual union so begun will turn into a real marriage, perhaps not. Unless the marriage is a union of love and intimacy and freedom appropriate to the eternal participation in and quest after the Beatific Vision, it is not one which will endure in Heaven. Unless it is a thing which, being well-built of enduring materials on a foundation which cannot be shaken, then it will not endure, for only the unshakable can remain.
Recall, after all, that in the scenario the Saducees presented, to which presentation Jesus responded, there was no interest of marriage as a union of man and woman, but only as a situation which permitted sexual activity for the purpose of raising up children! Obviously, such thing will be neither needed nor acceptable in Heaven, but, being reprehensible (that is, disgusting, repelling) will be thrown out. They will be like the angels in Heaven. They will have no need, no desire, for any such “marriage.”
This is not to say that I think married men and women – that any married man or woman – should make his or her life all about pleasing or knowing or being one with the other, or that in marriages which may endure to eternity that the spouses will not be lonely, perhaps even alienated from the other. It is probable, I think, that the closer any two created beings come – or at least desire to come – to one another, the more loneliness, even alienation, they will experience, until they find that the fullness of bliss is in union with the Trinity. Only God is big enough to encompass all of any one of us, full enough to give Himself to us without any reserve, Love enough to understand us perfectly. Only God can be intimately close to another, the name on the white stone is known only to God and to the soul that receives it. (Is it possible until we receive that name – until we know who we are and in that knowledge know that God knows us perfectly – we will be lonely?) Nor do I even begin to suggest that spouses should place or love each other ahead any children God brings into their lives. To do so would be vile. It would be to defy the very way God created their union. It would be to defeat knowing and love each other as God intends for them to do so, just as much as it would be to neglect the children God brings into their lives. It would be to ignore the fact that children are persons, created by God in His own Image just as much as those persons who have lived longer on this earth. It would be foolish, also, to think that the purpose of marriage is to bring children into the world; doubtless, that is a purpose, for marriage very often brings it to pass, but not the purpose, the only thing which makes it legitimate or desirable. (God could have designed us so that He never brings more of us into the world as a result of sexual union; He could also have designed us so that more of us come into the world in a fashion which has nothing to do with marriage, or even sex. He made it the way it is, and not any number of other ways, for a reason).
No man may put asunder what God joins. I do not believe that God will put it asunder either. He does nothing to no enduring purpose. He does nothing that could be done better another way. Man and woman freely chooses – and God joins. Nor do I think this is true only of marriage. Throughout all of life, man – or woman – freely chooses and God makes it be. Who can say which is first? Both are, and the one because the other, not to be distinguished from the other, save in human speech and thought. (I do not suggest that all “marriage” is either fornication or adultery or enduring marriage – there may be any number of in-betweens for all I know. I do not wish to speculate.)
Perhaps, the main reason I am writing this is because of the argument about whether the celibate state is superior to the married state (or vice versa). Doubtless, for any number of people, one state or the other is superior, better for their unique, personal search for and fulfillment in God. It seems to me that the idea that all marriage ends with death is deeply tied to such an argument, to the idea that intimate union with another human detracts from union with God. God created us in a world together so that we might, each and all, share in the Priesthood of the Word and bring one another to Him. God joins men and women together so that through their union each might be better united to Him, might share more fully in the Person of Christ. Such need not end with death or in Heaven, for in the Vision of God we shall be more, not less, the persons we are created to be. We are the Images of God, and marriage is an Image of the Love of Jesus. When the Fullness is revealed, the Images shall not die, but be infused with light and partake of the nature of that of which they are Images; they shall not cease, but become perfect likeness.
A spiritual marriage with God is open to all souls who desire Him, be they man or woman, celibate or married. Union in which “It is not I that lives, but Christ that lives within me” may be had by anyone. In each, the Trinity desires to make Their home, in men and women of every different life and vocation, to consecrate all, that Christ may be All and in All.
To this I append: I myself am celibate and have no desire for marriage. Nonetheless for this, I cannot bear to see such a beautiful thing degraded or counted less, let alone the persons whom God leads along this path. Yet I do not think this means that I am more to be believed when I speak of the value of marriage. It is well within right and nature for a person to defend his or her vocation as without inferiority because it is the vocation which God has given to him or her (and God gives His Best to all who trust Him) – in fact, who better knows a path, its glories, its beauties, its wonders, than the one who treads it? I hate also the idea that all is the same, and thus may be compared, counted better or worse. All is not the same. Star differs from star in glory, and it is precisely because of this that it would be nonsense to say that one star is more glorious than another. The eye is different from the ear, and the hand from the foot; therefore, the eye is not to say to the ear “I have no need of you,” nor the foot to the hand, “I have no need of you.” The glory of Christ fills all, and shines through all differently.
Those degrade celibacy also, who state that it is unilaterally superior to marriage or leads better to the vision of God than marriage. By rejecting marriage as lesser, as less well-suited to the end in sight, they diminish celibacy as a gift from God, good in its own right without needing to be better than anything else!
Copyright 2020 Raina Nightingale